My week began like any other vacation week. I had the week off from my work at the New York Philharmonic, and I had no urgent plans. Walk the dog, organize the papers piling up on my desk, practice my music, enjoy some time with my wife and hang out with friends--basically, I just wanted to enjoy my free days.
But during my break, I received an email from a gentleman named John Mackey. He had viewed one of my videos and was writing to ask permission to post a link to it on his FaceBook page. The video was titled “Trombone Silliness,” which was created and posted in June of 2011 on my website, davidfinlayson.com. He thought that it was very funny and that it deserved a wider audience.
That was when my week took a different direction.
What I now know, is that as soon as he posted the link on Facebook, awareness of “Trombone Silliness" spread rapidly across the Internet. The initial post on Facebook was shared 25 times in the first nineteen minutes and was catching fire very quickly on social media sites.
The Making of "Trombone Silliness"
The idea for the video emerged from my experience with GoPro action cameras, which I have used making home movies, driving in the car, recording my travels, and riding my bicycle around New York City. The video quality is wonderful, but I wanted to find a way to improve the audio quality of the videos.
I decided to try replacing the GoPro’s audio with a recording of higher quality, which I would capture using an external recording device. This idea was nothing new. A GoPro camera attached to the slide of my trombone, while I played, would be just the thing to test whether this new setup would work.
Because of the additional weight of the camera on my slide, I had to play something slow and easy. I chose from memory an etude from a Bordogni collection of vocalises. After once through the music, I popped the files in the computer and, with some careful editing, blended the better audio with the video.
The whole project took me about 45 minutes to record and edit. I put the file on my cell phone and shared it with my colleagues the next day. The video got a few laughs, and some people suggested that I put it up on my website for all to view. The video sat there ever since, in a relatively cold, dark corner of the Internet, ignored for over a year and a half.
The Email Avalanche and The Mistery YouTube Posting
I began getting emails from friends, colleagues and strangers that they loved the video, thanking me for the laughs it gave them. But one email I received got my attention, and it marked the beginning of a chain events that I am still trying to understand.
The email’s sender claimed that he represented major news organizations in helping them control the use of proprietary video content on the Internet. In the email, he offered his company’s services to control unauthorized use of my video, and proposed the possibility of my making a few dollars off its broadcast on YouTube. He added that he would collect a percentage of the video’s advertising revenue.
I responded to him that I was not interested in making any money off the video and that I certainly did not want to contribute to the proliferation of ads on sites like YouTube. My video was just fine where it was, at home, on my own website. At least, that is where I thought is was.
The next email that I opened was from John Mackey informing me that his original post had 8,246 “shares” with 687 comments, that Huffington Post had recorded 70,000 views in 8 minutes, and that it appeared as if someone had pirated my video and posted it on YouTube. He wrote that the pirated video had received more than a million views in just one day.
As soon as I read that, I checked YouTube for the video, but it had already been pulled, and viewers were getting the notice, “This Video Has Been Removed By The User.” My personal email account began to fill up with emails inquiring why the video had been removed from YouTube. Users on sites like Reddit and Gawker had posted articles about the video and the link to the unauthorized YouTube version.
The Rachel Maddow Show "The Best New Thing In The World" Segment
In hopes of stemming the tide of emails (well over a hundred) inquiring about the location of the first posting on YouTube, I decided to place my video on YouTube, with no ads attached. MSNBC, ABC.COM, The Rachel Maddow Show, RightThisMinute.com, WQXR, CNN's Distraction Channel on YouTube, NBC's "Good Morning Averica", as well as foreign news agencies were contacting me, requesting permission to use the video for their news programs and sites. A Tweet from the "Myth Busters" Adam Savage (1/6/2013 post) also helped to fan the fires of my silliness. I received an invitation to participate in a music festival in Spain, and a commercial venture in Greece requested use of the video. Social media references to the video abounded on sites like Twitter and Tumbler. The last time I checked, a Google search for “Trombone Silliness” produced results more than 50 pages deep. It was indeed a busy 48 hours for "Trombone Silliness."
The Fever Finally Breaks
At the time of this writing, the video posted by me on YouTube has just surpassed 100,000 views in roughly 6 days and most of the comments have been favorable. The emails have slowed and it is unlikely that my YouTube posting will reach anything close to its initial one million plus views. However, traffic to the video on my personal website continues to increase and is inching toward 500,000 hits.
Above, an article written showing one of the last places that the unauthorized video could be viewed on YouTube before it was removed. My posting was not made until January 8th.
I still don’t know exactly who the person was who posted the unauthorized version of “Trombone Silliness” on YouTube. I probably never will. Should I really care? People have suggested that I should have YouTube look into the situation and file a complaint. YouTube has very strict rules for the uploading of unauthorized copyrighted material.
On the positive side, friends that I have not heard from for decades have contacted me, and I have answered numerous emails from perfect strangers who share my love of music and something silly. I’ve enjoyed knowing that the video has made many people, perhaps millions, laugh, and I hope that it continues to do so amid these difficult times when the news offers us so little to smile about.